Cute pictures of polar bears, masking tragedy

March 17, 2015

It came from @planetpics on Twitter.

A beautiful picture of a polar bear cub getting a lift across the water from its mom!  Life on Earth/@planetpics

“A beautiful picture of a polar bear cub getting a lift across the water from its mom!” Life on Earth/@planetpics

Couldn’t help but wonder if that cub will survive the next few months, let alone to adulthood.

Generally, polar bear mothers den on pack ice, and the cub would be kept on the ice while the mother hunted from that platform.  Polar bears can swim, but not well, and not far, usually.  They cannot hunt while swimming.  To eat, they wait on the ice for seals to come up for air, then grab the seals.

Lack of hard ice platforms, pack ice, means mother polar bears can’t hunt to feed their cubs.  While an adult polar bear can swim a distance to find ice, the cubs can’t. And if the adult doesn’t find hard ice, they perish.  Long swims are deadly to cubs.

It’s a cute pic, and we hope momma bear is swimming to an ice platform and can feed that cute little cub so it grows and flourishes.

We know the odds are against it.


Annals of global warming: No, polar bears are not “fine” — suffer from loss of sea ice

March 20, 2013

Press release from The Journal of Animal Ecology (links added here):

For polar bears, it’s survival of the fattest

One of the most southerly populations of polar bears in the world – and the best studied – is struggling to cope with climate-induced changes to sea ice, new research reveals. Based on over 10 years’ data the study, published in the British Ecological Society‘s Journal of Animal Ecology, sheds new light on how sea ice conditions drive polar bears’ annual migration on and off the ice.

Led by Dr. Seth Cherry of the University of Alberta, the team studied polar bears in western Hudson Bay, where sea ice melts completely each summer and typically re-freezes from late November to early December. “This poses an interesting challenge for a species that has evolved as a highly efficient predator of ice-associated seals,” he explains. “Because although polar bears are excellent swimmers compared with other bear species, they use the sea ice to travel, hunt, mate and rest.”

Polar bear and two cubs wait for ice to reform

Caption from EurekAlert: An adult female polar bear wearing a GPS-satellite linked collar with her two 10-month-old cubs waits for the sea ice to re-form onshore in western Hudson Bay, Manitoba, Canada. Photo Copyright Andrew Derocher, Univeristy of Alberta.

Polar bears have adapted to the annual loss of sea ice by migrating onto land each summer. While there, they cannot hunt seals and must rely on fat reserves to see them through until the ice returns.

Dr. Cherry and colleagues wanted to discover how earlier thawing and later freezing of sea ice affects the bears’ migration. “At first glance, sea ice may look like a barren, uniform environment, but in reality, it’s remarkably complex and polar bears manage to cope, and even thrive, in a habitat that moves beneath their feet and even disappears for part of the year. This is an extraordinary biological feat and biologist still don’t fully understand it,” he says.

From 1991-97 and 2004-09, they monitored movements of 109 female polar bears fitted with satellite tracking collars. They tagged only females because males’ necks are wider than their heads, so they cannot wear a collar. During the same period, the team also monitored the position and concentration of sea ice using satellite images.

“Defining precisely what aspects of sea ice break-up and freeze-up affect polar bear migration, and when these conditions occur, is a vital part of monitoring how potential climate-induced changes to sea ice freeze-thaw cycles may affect the bears,” he says.

The results reveal the timing of polar bears’ migration can be predicted by how fast the sea ice melts and freezes, and by when specific sea ice concentrations occur within a given area of Hudson Bay.

According to Dr. Cherry: “The data suggest that in recent years, polar bears are arriving on shore earlier in the summer and leaving later in the autumn. These are precisely the kind of changes one would expect to see as a result of a warming climate and may help explain some other studies that are showing declines in body condition and cub production.”

Recent estimates put the western Hudson Bay polar bear population at around 900 individuals. The population has declined since the 1990s, as has the bears’ body condition and the number of cubs surviving to adulthood.

Young polar bear challenged by lack of sea ice, Andrew Derocher photo

Caption from EurekAlert: This is a subadult polar bear on a lake on the shores of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada in November waiting for the sea ice to re-form. Copyright Andrew Derocher, Univeristy of Alberta.

Because polar bears’ main food source is seals, and these are hunted almost exclusively on sea ice, the longer bears spend on land, the longer they must go without energy-rich seals. “Climate-induced changes that cause sea ice to melt earlier, form later, or both, likely affect the overall health of polar bears in the area. Ultimately, for polar bears, it’s survival of the fattest,” says Dr. Cherry.

He hopes the results will enable other scientists and wildlife managers to predict how potential climate-induced changes to sea ice freeze-thaw cycles will affect the ecology, particularly the migration patterns, of this iconic species.

###

Seth Cherry et al (2013). ‘Migration phenology and seasonal fidelity of an Arctic marine predator in relation to sea ice dynamics’, doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12050, is published in the Journal of Animal Ecology on Wednesday 20 March 2013.

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Anthony Watts: ‘Don’t bother me with the sarcastic facts’

December 27, 2009

Somebody needs to come up with new corollaries of Poe’s Law to cover climate skeptics.

Anthony Watts posts a series on polar bears, with Grandpa Bear kvetching about what his grandson is learning in public polar bear school about climate change.

I commented, posting a link to the press release of the Polar Bear Study Group, the world’s longest-established and most-respected organization on polar bear populations and population health.  It’s a rather dull press release, really, on the last meeting of the group last summer:

The PBSG renewed the conclusion from previous meetings that the greatest challenge to conservation of polar bears is ecological change in the Arctic resulting from climatic warming.  Declines in the extent of the sea ice have accelerated since the last meeting of the group in 2005, with unprecedented sea ice retreats in 2007 and 2008. The PBSG confirmed its earlier conclusion that unabated global warming will ultimately threaten polar bears everywhere.

The PBSG also recognized that threats to polar bears will occur at different rates and times across their range although warming induced habitat degradation and loss are already negatively affecting polar bears in some parts of their range. Subpopulations of polar bears face different combinations of human threats.  The PBSG recommends that jurisdictions take into account the variation in threats facing polar bears.

The PBSG noted polar bears suffer health effects from persistent pollutants.  At the same time, climate change appears to be altering the pathways by which such pollutants enter ecosystems. The PBSG encourages international efforts to evaluate interactions between climate change and pollutants.

The PBSG endorses efforts to develop non-invasive means of population assessment, and continues to encourage jurisdictions to incorporate capture and radio tracking programs into their national monitoring efforts. The members also recognized that aboriginal people are both uniquely positioned to observe wildlife and changes in the environment, and their knowledge is essential for effective management.

All I posted was the link.

The response at Watts’ What’s Up With That?

Censored:

Ed Darrell (20:50:48) :

[snip – pointless sarcasm]

Is that emblematic of the state climate “skeptics” are in these days, that a dull recitation of the facts is “sarcasm?” “Don’t confuse us with the facts,” they seem to be saying.  And, if they really think they’re making headway with stolen e-mails, why are they so crabby?

More politics than science, more bluster than discussion.

This cartoon scares them, too.  Maybe they know something’s up:

Chris Riddell cartoon, December 20, 2009, The Observer

Chris Riddell cartoon, December 20, 2009, The Observer

Follow up: Gail Zawacki at Wit’s End neatly captures the tell-tale signs of denialism at workCarol Kane had a great line in Annie Hall: “I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.”  Denialists everywhere appear to share that emotion.

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Press release on polar bears the climate change skeptics hope you won’t read

August 2, 2009

Why did the self-proclaimed skeptics work so hard to discredit this meeting before it even occurred?  Why have they ignored this press release?

Take it easy! Calm down, stick to the facts! Polar bear photo by Kathy Crane, NOAA Arctic Research Office

“Take it easy! Calm down, stick to the facts!” Polar bear photo by Kathy Crane, NOAA Arctic Research Office

There is no dramatic finding in the release.  After you read it, you’ll probably wonder, too, why climate change skeptics don’t want you to read this press release:

15th meeting of PBSG in Copenhagen, Denmark 2009

PRESS RELEASE

The 15th meeting of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG), hosted by the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, was held at the Greenland Representation in Copenhagen Denmark , June 29-July 3, 2009.  The Polar Bear Specialist Group is composed of researchers and managers representing each of the five circumpolar nations that signed the International Agreement for the Conservation of Polar Bears of 1973.  Since the late 1960s, the members of PBSG have met every 3 to 5 years under the umbrella of the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) to review and exchange information, and make recommendations for research and management of polar bears throughout the Arctic.

The PBSG renewed the conclusion from previous meetings that the greatest challenge to conservation of polar bears is ecological change in the Arctic resulting from climatic warming.  Declines in the extent of the sea ice have accelerated since the last meeting of the group in 2005, with unprecedented sea ice retreats in 2007 and 2008. The PBSG confirmed its earlier conclusion that unabated global warming will ultimately threaten polar bears everywhere.

The PBSG also recognized that threats to polar bears will occur at different rates and times across their range although warming induced habitat degradation and loss are already negatively affecting polar bears in some parts of their range. Subpopulations of polar bears face different combinations of human threats.  The PBSG recommends that jurisdictions take into account the variation in threats facing polar bears.

The PBSG noted polar bears suffer health effects from persistent pollutants.  At the same time, climate change appears to be altering the pathways by which such pollutants enter ecosystems. The PBSG encourages international efforts to evaluate interactions between climate change and pollutants.

The PBSG endorses efforts to develop non-invasive means of population assessment, and continues to encourage jurisdictions to incorporate capture and radio tracking programs into their national monitoring efforts. The members also recognized that aboriginal people are both uniquely positioned to observe wildlife and changes in the environment, and their knowledge is essential for effective management.

The PBSG recognizes that where habitats are stable, polar bears are a renewable resource, and reaffirmed its support of the right of aboriginal groups to harvest polar bears within sustainable limits.  The PBSG noted that the population of polar bears in Baffin Bay, shared between Greenland and Canada, may simultaneously be suffering from significant habitat change and substantial over harvest, while at the same time interpretations by scientists and local hunters disagree regarding population status.  Similarly, the Chukchi Sea polar bear population which is shared by Russia and the United States is likely declining due to illegal harvest in Russia and one of the highest rates of sea ice loss in the Arctic. Consistent with its past efforts to coordinate research and management among jurisdictions, the PBSG recommended that the polar bear populations in Baffin Bay and the Chukchi Sea be reassessed and that harvests be brought into balance with the current sustainable yield.

A variety of management changes have occurred since the PBSG last met in 2005.  The PBSG members were particularly pleased that quotas for the harvest of polar bears in Greenland were implemented in January 2006, and that quota reductions have been implemented in some parts of Greenland.  Also since the last meeting, the government of Nunavut reduced the harvest quota in Western Hudson Bay because of the documented population decline.

The PBSG reevaluated the status of the 19 recognized subpopulations of polar bears distributed over vast and relatively inaccessible areas of the Arctic. Despite the fact that much new information has been made available since the last meeting, knowledge of some populations is still poor.  Reviewing the latest information available the PBSG concluded that 1 of 19 subpopulations is currently increasing, 3 are stable and 8 are declining.  For the remaining 7 subpopulations available data were insufficient to provide an assessment of current trend.  The total number of polar bears is still thought to be between 20,000 and 25,000.  However, the mixed quality of information on the different subpopulations means there is much room for error in establishing that range.  That potential for error, given the ongoing and projected changes in habitats and other potential stressors is cause for concern.  Nonetheless, the PBSG is optimistic that humans can mitigate the effects of global warming and other threats to polar bears, and ensure that they remain a part of the Arctic ecosystem in perpetuity.

Dr. Erik Born from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources was elected as the new chairman of the group after Dr. Andrew Derocher from the University of Alberta, who has been serving as chair since 2005.

Well, there is that proclamation of optimism in the penultimate paragraph, that humans can mitigate threats to bears, including global warming.  Is that why they don’t want you to read it?

How are the polar bears?  They are in trouble.  The Polar Bear Specialist Group says we should help them out, that we can do things to save the bears.  Why would the “skeptics” not want us to know that?

Other resources:

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Denialism doesn’t work: Polar bears still in trouble

February 9, 2009

Is there a climate change denialist blog that hasn’t tried to claim that the rest of the world is crazy, and that polar bears are in no danger at all?

As a tactic to save polar bears, denial doesn’t work.  Arctic Economics reports on research showing polar bears often go without food, a bad tactic for long-term survival.

Polar bear in the open ocean, Los Angeles Times photo

Polar bear in the open ocean, Los Angeles Times photo

You want that in English?  Sure:  Polar bears are starving to death because of climate change.  Shifts in the ice have ruined their hunting.

And, as often these days, I mention that here because it is one more case where “falsified data” or “badly placed measuring stations” can’t affect the outcome.  Polar bears don’t read The Economist. Last I checked ticket sales, no polar bear had ever seen Al Gore’s movie, let alone been misled by it.  It cannot be the case that polar bears starve because they believe hyped and false claims about global warming.  Polar bears starve because it’s really warmer.

___________

Update, 3-5-2009 — One of the signs of insanity among warming disbelievers is their practice of censoring comments on their blogs, when the blog owner edits the comments of opponents to make them look silly and, importantly, to keep contrary views backed by reason from infecting the blog.


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